How Does the Demodex Mite Cause Blepharitis?

demodex mite

Eye irritation is one of the most uncomfortable health conditions you can experience. In your hunt for solutions, you’ve probably tried eyewashes, eye drops and even sea salt. Anything to make the pain and discomfort go away was likely worth trying. A demodex infestation can easily result in blepharitis, but doctors often misdiagnose your eye irritation as something else. So, what about demodex eyelid treatment?

What Is Blepharitis?

Blepharitis is a form of eye irritation that occurs when the glands around the eyelids become blocked or inflamed. It presents itself via several different symptoms. Specific symptoms depend on the cause, but common ones include crusted eyelids, swollen eyelids, and blurred vision. Unfortunately, while the condition and its symptoms can be treated, there is no permanent cure.

There are also wide variations in the severity of symptoms and the need for demodex eyelid treatment. For some people, their sufferings are almost invisible. The causes may be so tiny that they cannot detect them with the naked eye — least of all, the same eyes experiencing irritation. In other cases, the irritation is so severe that the eye and eyelids become unsightly.

If you have tried home remedies and symptoms persist, it’s time to see a doctor. This is especially important if it begins to affect your ability to safely perform everyday tasks, such as driving.

What Are Demodex Mites?

Demodex mites are also called eyelash mites. They are microscopic organisms that live in the hair follicles of animals. Surprisingly, the relationship is not always parasitic and does not always require demodex eyelid treatment. In small numbers, they can be beneficial for the skin as they eat dead skin cells, which could otherwise clog pores. However, in large amounts, they feed on nutrients on the eyelids, expel waste and provide virtually no benefits.

Demodex mites are usually dormant during the daylight hours but will come at night to eat dead skin. After a night-long feast, they then retreat into the eyelashes to lay eggs. Demodex eyelid treatment can help prevent them from returning for another round. Despite the nocturnal habits of demodex mites, people with blepharitis tend to experience the strongest symptoms in the morning.

Over the years, scientists have identified two main types of demodex mites and humans are their only hosts. Both share a scaly surface, eight legs, elongated bodies, semi-transparent structures and mouthparts. What primarily sets them apart is size and eating habits.

Demodex brevis mites are the smaller of the two. In fact, they are about half the length of Demodex folliculorum mites. Perhaps, because of their smaller size, they can feed on cells by going deep into the sebaceous glands. They tend to cause posterior blepharitis.

Demodex folliculorum mites tend to remain on the face, but they do sometimes move down to the chest and the neck. They thrive on oil and skin cells and generally make their way into the upper part of hair follicles. This type tends to cause anterior blepharitis and generally requires demodex eyelid treatment.

What Are Anterior and Posterior Blepharitis?

When diagnosing blepharitis, doctors categorize it into two types to help them better identify a cause and create a treatment plan. Anterior blepharitis results from demodex mites infesting the roots of the eyelashes and follicles. In contrast, posterior infestation involves the actual glands, particularly the meibomian gland.

When you consider the two types of demodex mites, the two types of blepharitis make immediate sense. However, it’s important to note that while mites do have preferential behaviors regarding feeding habits and location, either type of mite can cause either type of blepharitis. Thankfully, most demodex eyelid treatment options tackle both types.

How Do Demodex Mites Cause Blepharitis?

The presence of demodex mites on the eyelids can cause irritation and direct damage in a number of ways. How the symptoms or damage manifests may vary based on the type of infestation and the specific characteristics of infestation that you are susceptible to.

Direct Damage

Demodex mites can dig down into the meibomian glands. They can then cause a granulomatous reaction by irritating the exoskeletal structure as a foreign entity. This type of infestation has also been tied to refractory chalazia with a high chance of recurrence. Because demodex mites can also eat away at cells, they can disrupt the natural growth of eyelashes. Without proper demodex eyelid treatment, this can cause eyelashes to be loose or to grow misdirectionally.

Mites can even block glands around the eyelids and cause dysfunctions in the gland, as well as dry eyes from a reduced ability to make tears. Finally, mites’ claws can create cylindrical dandruff and other related conditions.

Hypersensitivity Reaction

As is the case with all foreign bodies, some people react more strongly to the presence of mites than others. The sensitivity comes from the waste mites produce when they eat, lay eggs and carry out other functions that are key to their survival. It is not uncommon for people to have an immune response to this waste material. Some people develop rosacea and other skin conditions. Demodex eyelid treatment may end and reverse this.

Bacterial Infection

Demodex mites are carriers of harmful bacteria that can cause further complications around the eyes. The three that concern doctors most are Staphylococci, Streptococci and Bacillus oleronius. Rosacea can also develop from bacterial exposure. To make matters worse, even when dying, mites can emit bacteria that trigger an immune response. This usually manifests as inflammation.

What Are the Symptoms of a Clinical Infestation?

Demodex mites are common, but doctors might not initially look for this when diagnosing eye problems. This stems from the fact that there are so many less complex causes and conditions to look for. If you believe you have a clinical infestation that requires demodex eyelid treatment, watch out for these symptoms:

  • Sensation of a foreign body in or around the eyes
  • Redness or crusting around the eyelids
  • Cylindrical dandruff
  • Eyelash disorders
  • Itching and burning
  • Blurry vision

Who Is More at Risk for Getting Blepharitis and Demodex Mites?

People become more susceptible to demodex mites as they grow older. Consequently, it is one of the most common causes of inflammation and irritation around the eyelids in patients over 60. In fact, one study estimates that 100% of seniors over 70 years old have demodex mites, even though some are asymptomatic.

Even when people have no symptoms, a doctor may insist on demodex eyelid treatment. This prevents the likelihood of foreign bodies creating complications during or after surgery. Cataract surgery is one such instance.

There is also a cyclical relationship between demodex mites and rosacea. While they can cause and further irritate this skin condition, people who already have rosacea also seem to have a higher likelihood of infestation and resulting blepharitis.

People with diabetes and compromised immune systems also seem to be more likely to develop blepharitis. Similarly, people with sensitive skin seem to develop the most severe reactions and need gentler demodex eyelid treatment options.

How Do Doctors Diagnose Blepharitis and Demodex Mites?

One of the reasons doctors generally don’t assume demodex is a root cause of blepharitis is that mites are a little harder to test for than most other eye issues. While there are advancements in testing, it still requires physically checking for mites under a microscope. Here are a few ways doctors may diagnose patients before determining an appropriate demodex blepharitis treatment.

Clinical History

If you have a personal history of blepharitis caused by demodex, then your doctor will check for this if you have related symptoms. When it comes to clinical history, your doctor might also work back from other diagnoses, demodex complications or a previous need for demodex eyelid treatment. Potential conditions include the following:

  • Recurrent chalazia or blepharoconjunctivitis in young patients
  • Keratitis or conjunctivitis in adult patients
  • Madarosis or recurrent trichiasis
  • Facial eczema, rosacea or psoriasis

Slit Lamp Examination

Most people with a mite infestation develop dandruff at the roof of the eyelashes. Consequently, this is a common sign that doctors look for or that might point them to demodex mites once discovered. To accomplish this, doctors remove one eyelash each from the upper and lower eyelids. These are placed on separate observation trays and magnified by 25.

Microscopic Confirmation

Doctors take things a step further by counting the adult demodex mites and looking for the presence of larvae and eggs. This is considered a sure sign that an infestation is occurring and that this may be the root cause of blepharitis. Confirmation will likely result in the prescribing of effective demodex eyelid treatment.

How Can You Prevent Blepharitis and Demodex Mites?

It’s important to remember that demodex mites occur naturally on the human body and there are no issues associated with a small number. However, there are things patients can do to keep the count at a moderate level:

  • Wash the eyelids regularly, even if you do not currently have issues with blepharitis.
  • Change or disinfect makeup applicators frequently to prevent them from becoming a source of spreading bacteria and mites.
  • If you have recurring blepharitis, consider getting routine checkups for this specific purpose.

How Can You Manage Blepharitis and Demodex Mites?

Demodex mites are resistant to many common forms of antiseptics, such as iodine and alcohol. These would also be potentially harmful for use on the eyelids. The good news is that there are a wealth of other demodex eyelid treatment options to consider. Even better, you can try many of these from home. They are gentle enough to reduce the risk of further irritation as your eyes heal.

Baby Shampoo

The gentle formula in baby shampoo is still effective at cleansing the skin. This makes it an excellent choice for ongoing eye hygiene. There is, however, the risk of a long-term negative impact on your ability to produce tears because it is a detergent.

Eye Drops

One of the most debilitating symptoms of blepharitis is dry eyes. It can make it difficult to read and work. Eye drops provide instant lubrication that relieves many of the additional symptoms, such as redness, itchiness and the sensation of foreign bodies.

Warm Compresses

Warm compresses feel great no matter what kind of inflammation or irritation you’re experiencing. They are one of the most comforting demodex eyelid treatment options. Use warm compresses to stabilize tear production, reduce inflammation and unclog glands.

Eyelid Cleansers

These are created specifically for eye health and do a much better job of ridding the eyelids of bacteria and mites than baby shampoo. Eyelid cleansers are also an excellent tool for relieving symptoms. However, some cleaners do not penetrate deep enough to provide a long-term solution. This is especially true if the mites have burrowed deep into the skin. Thankfully, recent advancements have made cleansers more effective.

What Is 4-Terpineol and How Does It Help?

Scientists have found that tea tree oil can rid patients of demodex mites in four weeks or less. There are two main tea tree demodex eyelid treatment options, which vary based on concentration. The 50% concentration directly kills demodex mites, whereas the 5% concentration may disrupt their reproductive patterns.

While the 50% concentration is likely to work faster, it might not be suitable for all patients. People with sensitive skin or who suffer from serious demodex-caused irritation may opt for the lower concentration.

While tea tree oil for demodex blepharitis is extremely effective, it can be harmful to the eyes. To add to this, not all the ingredients in tea tree oil are beneficial for treating demodex. Scientists narrowed down the effective ingredient to 4-terpineol, which is what we use for our formula at Cliradex.

Without all the other harsh ingredients of tea tree oil, this eye cleanser provides a gentle alternative that won’t irritate the skin or cause any discomfort. Even better, whether your blepharitis is caused by demodex, bacteria or other factors, this is sure to tackle the problem.

Are you ready to try our deep cleansing demodex eyelid treatment formula, so you can experience true relief? Check out our Cliradex family of eye cleansers. Prices start at just $29.99.